Stars of SNL Bil Arabi ‘keep it fresh’
By : Kerry Baggott
Mon Dec 12, 2016
Who said Arabs aren’t funny? Whoever did has been proved wrong this year, following the airing across Arabia on OSN of its regional version of the US cult show ‘Saturday Night Live’.
Having recently completed series two, the zany comic hosts of the show, Khalid Mansoor and Shadi Alfons, were joined by producer Tarek El Ganayny and guest host and Tunisian actor Dhaffer L'Abidine, at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival to talk all things funny.
With two of the funniest men on the panel, it was never going to be a ‘normal’ discussion – but between all the laughs during Monday’s ‘workshop’ the panel made some serious points.
“To get the biggest comedy show in the world and fail would be disastrous,” said El Ganayny, talking about the pressure placed on the whole team. “We have the best writers, producers, sylists and directors on the show and we work really hard. The show has to go on, not because it’s ready but because it’s 11.30pm.”
While the show is based on the US version, SNL Bil Arabi has its own set of rules. “When we were shooting episode one, the US was shooting its 984th. So we couldn’t start where they started,” said El Ganayny.
Smart, intelligent comedy is the goal. “We stay away from religion; politics isn’t funny and sex can be frowned upon if it’s too direct – so we try to write things with double meanings so children will not understand it,” he said.
SNL fills a gap that’s been missing for years said L'Abidine: “We see a lot of drama made in the Arab world but not a lot of comedy. It’s different from acting. On TV you follow a story. With comedy it’s either funny or it’s not.”
Touching on the success of the show, Shadi said he still can’t believe his luck: “It’s still not real, it’s unfathomable,” he said. “For someone to have grown up watching SNL, the institution from which some, if not all, of the greatest known comedians have grown, is beyond an honour. It’s the highlight of my career.”
The panel was cagey about plans to air season three, saying “all things will be announced shortly.”